Priest, servant of foreign students in Italy goes home
The recent death of Don Remigio Musaragno marks the beginning of a celebration of life well lived, at the service of foreign students in Italy. Foreign students are a category of immigrants hardly talked about.
Don Remigio understood the importance of supporting students from all parts of the world, especially the poor students from developing countries, to pursue their studies. In this way, he became a man who had sons and daughters from all parts of the world.
For more than 40 years, Don Remigio served foreign students in Italy, each year, hosting at least 150 students from all parts of the world. He created Centro Internazionale Giovanni XXIII, the most famous hostel for foreign students in Rome.
The centre provided accommodation at very cheap rates for students who could afford, and hosted for free students who could not afford to pay.
It also provided free meals not only to students hosted at the centre, but also to all foreign students who didn’t have where to go to for meals.
Today, most of the foreign students Don Remigio supported in their studies are professors, journalists, ambassadors, politicians, priests, sisters, lawyers, artistes, the list is endless.
Don Remigio used to say that “students are intellectual workers” who deserve to be treated as all other types of workers.
He formed Ufficio centrale studenti esteri in Italia (Central Office of Foreign Students in Italy) in 1962, to promote and support foreign students to come to Italy for studies.
Don Remigio helped so many students get scholarship and obtain student visas. He also helped so many obtain and renew their student permits. The Provincial Police Headquarters throughout Italy are full of letters he wrote declaring he was hosting and providing financial support to foreign students.
Every year, Don Remigio organised a conference on immigration, especially on the immigration laws affecting foreign students in Italy. The conferences brought together foreign university students, university rectors, ministers, trade unions, immigrations officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Prefects, etc. The resolutions of these conferences greatly influenced Italian immigration policies, especially those applicable to foreign students.
Considering foreign students as key protagonists of their countries’ development, he used to urge foreign students in Italy never to forget their home countries. “Never take away your focus from your home country,” he said.
As a way of encouraging foreign students to clear their studies, Don Remigio created a special token to give to those who graduated in any faculty, as long as they presented a copy of their dissertation and the degree.
The library he created at Centro Internazionale Giovanni XXIII in fact has a library with the biggest collection of dissertations by foreign students in the country for the last 40 years.
I’m convinced Don Remigio lived a fulfilling life, and I can imagine him narrating to God his experiences with foreign students in Italy.
Thanks Don Remigio for the favour you did of dedicating your priesthood to the service of foreign students in Italy. May the good work you initiated not be interrupted now that you are gone.
By Stephen Ogongo Ongong’a